As an artist, Jack has spent his whole life dedicated to drawing, writing and getting his thoughts out to the universe. His working life as an artist has spanned a number of waves of comic book development and his paintings reach down into the present from their original roots back in the early years of 20th century American illustration and art.
His most enduring accomplishment has been the production of the original 24-issue graphic novel known as The First Kingdom. Many have said it was the very first independently published graphic novel and it began to be re-issued as a four-volume set in the spring of 2005.
Aside from his drawing and painting, Jack has written extensively through the years on his ideas exploring the place humans have taken in the universe and the directions in which they may or may not take in the future.
Today he teaches anatomy for figurative art students and continues to work on his comic book projects. Currently in the works as well are a number of publications and videos presenting his distinctive ideas of teaching figure drawing.
Recent publications included the first volume of a collection of sketches Jack has done over the past decades that illustrate for the advanced figurative art student the many different ways in which the dynamic human form can be expressed. With over one-hundred-fifty pages, the book is entitled Anatomy by Jack Katz, Vol. 1.
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When we left off our conversation with Jack, a time traveler had arrived from the future, only to find he was not far enough in the past. The computers had taken over. The machines created by the computers attend to everything people needed and it made humans weak. Things sounded grim.
A recurring theme in The First Kingdom is the rise and fall of civilizations and the events that eventually bring about their destruction. A desire for immortality is among the motivations that are often driving the creators and innovators.
One solution created is a memory serum that retains the entire scope of a culture’s knowledge. The serum can be used to share this knowledge with the replicants called Humanoids.
The Humanoids were made by a man who had a near-death experience as a child and wanted to stave off death for everyone. At one point, he takes the memory serum to prevent his own inevitable death.
“Art is the glorification of the human body.”
The Fiction We Know is Replicated
Tarzan is not an original story. According to Jack, there are no original stories. Jack in the Jungle and Jack the Lion Tamer were both written by PT Barnum and are the basis for the Tarzan stories written by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Philip Wiley wrote the Gladiator which Jack believes was the inspiration for Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel’s seminal Superman. Jack even shares a personal story about these two co-creators in the first part of our conversation.
People are Steeped in Ambivalence
Jack is exacerbated by people steeped in the same ambivalence. He believes people are terrified and need to hold on to something. Jack has found the god of Einstein and it has allowed him to focus on completing the Beyond the Beyond.
When Jack met Charles Clarence (C.C). Beck, who was the first artist assigned to draw the character of Captain Marvel, originally dubbed Captain Thunder by writer Bill Parker, “He knew I was supposed to do Captain Marvel Jr.”
“He already knew about me from Bulletman and Bulletdog.”
Jack remembers Beck enjoyed designing swords and hilts, and that he was a “Wonderful little gentleman.” Maybe it has to do with his belief that Captain Marvel was better than Superman.
When Jack wrote his own story of a character with immense power he named it The Last Immortal. He then introduced a girl who was dying of cancer and asked, “What can superpowers do against cancer?”
Matt Baker and Mankind
Jack claims that Baker was the best example of an artist making it in the business. Jack made the mistake of pointing this out to Baker, and when it was overheard — “I lost my job when I said he was too good for this… I said he should be working at Playboy.”
“I loved Matt Baker – admired his ability to draw women. He had a bad heart, and he was a beautiful person.”
He is one of the many artists who inspired Jack to pursue his independent opus The First Kingdom.
“The Kingdom is like a silent mention,” he told me. “One day the world will be ready for substance.”
This includes a trial of the fantasy that we create. As Jack points out, “Mankind can’t handle the situation he is born into — it’s the vicissitude. during the trial the judge is Consciousness. Upon the suggestion that they are all fabrications, Consciousness learns she does not have the authority she thought she had
Our conversation is interrupted by sirens, and then Jack responds that he is unlike the fabricators because “I glorify the human body. It’s our temple. The registry of our identity.”
Cycles – Skywald – dick Giordano
The First Kingdom is 1070 pages. It tells the story of many advanced societies who are brought down by the problems they create.
“When I worked at Skywald,” Jack begins, he developed a jungle character raised by lions, not apes. Jack wanted to give credit to PT Barnum who he admires. Sadly, Barnum was a gifted writer who “took his intelligence to the worst possible places”
So, Jack honored him with the character Zangar.
It was Dick Giordano who visited Jack to make an offer from DC on a new project. Giordano had created the Charlton Comics characters known as the “Action Heroes. He later became the executive editor of DC Comics.
“The only thing interested in was The Imaginator,” Jack said. “(He) Loved the idea, but it never came off and then he died.”
“We are afraid to be original.”
“Society creates its downfall.,” says Jack. “Built-in from the first breath and the pain and carried through trace memories. You cannot get rid of memory. My desire must be rewarded with punishment. It all leads to our own self-destruction.”
“There’s a kind of evil or disassociation,” he continues. “Some people are born without a conscious.”
Hear the rest of the story in the podcast at the top of this post.
I saw a drawing that was hanging in the restroom at Sam’s Log Cabin in Albany, Ca.
My wife and I had stopped in for breakfast. After we ordered our meal I used the restroom and saw the drawing of a mythic figure on the wall.
The title The First Kingdom was written at the top. He stood holding a longsword in his right hand, long hair trailing behind him to the cape billowing to his knees. The name Tundran was written at his feet.
At the bottom was the inscription “To the Log Cabin, the best place to eat in California. All the best, Jack Katz.”
When we finished our meals I used the restroom again and took a photo of the drawing.
Back at our table, I asked one of the servers named Eric how the restaurant came by the drawing.
Eric told me Jack lived nearby and came in for breakfast. I gave him my card and asked him to let Jack know that I was interested in a conversation.
Eric later emailed me with the contact information for Jack and his associate Brian Miller. We arranged the date for breakfast and sat down in the back of the Log Cabin for a conversation about Creativity, Synchronicity, Fear, and Romantic Beauty and Human Tragedy.
Jack has dedicated his whole life to drawing and writing. All part of a mission to get his thoughts out to the universe. His work spans numerous waves of comic book development. His paintings are rooted in the early years of 20th century American illustration and art and reach down into the present,
His most enduring accomplishment is the production of the 24-issue graphic novel known as The First Kingdom. Many have said it was the very first independently published graphic novel. It was re-issued in a four-volume set in the spring of 2005.
Today Jack teaches anatomy for figurative art students and continues to work on his comic book projects. He is currently creating a number of publications and videos that present his distinctive ideas of teaching figure drawing.
Anatomy by Jack Katz, Vol. 1 is the first volume of sketches. It is a collection drawn from the decades and illustrated for the advanced figurative art student. It presents the many ways that the dynamic human form can be expressed.
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